Calling 11th Street N.W. part of the neighborhood is a stretch, but it is noteworthy that there is now a wine bar within walking distance of NCap.
Vinoteca (1940 11st St. N.W., near U Street) opened earlier this month. I was alerted to its existence this past Saturday by an unhappy customer who posted comments on the U Street listserv. I wasted no time to experience the restaurant for myself, and the visit was wholly positive.
Upon entering, I was quickly greeted by the server Katrina and her smile. Vinoteca's wine-by-the-glass list is more extensive than most of the other wine bars in the city. Although the prices are a bit above average in terms of comparable value, several wines can be found for $6-$9 a glass. A "taste" (a 2.5 ounce pour) is also an available option, the key sign that you have found a true wine bar.
I've found that I haven't been a big fan of French wines lately, so my first venture fell short. However, the Syrah la Voilette, Jean Luc Colombo (2005; $3.50 taste/$7 glass) is an economical option for the less demanding customer.
Vine Vale Shiraz, Tempus Two (Australia, 2005; $6 taste/$12 glass) is worth trying, with a nice bouquet, although it seemed a little heavy on the alcohol content.
The Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel, Four Vines (California 2005; $4 taste/$8 glass) featured aggressive forward fruit with good structure, and it was absolutely delicious.
My final wine turned out to be the winner. Try the Barnard Griffin Merlot (Washington State 2004; $6.5 taste/$13 glass/$52 bottle) while you still can. Wine Spectator rated it 89 for good reason, and Vinoteca is probably one of the last places you can find this wine because the vintage has sold out at Wine.com. Speaking of which, the restaurant had run out of two of the wines I requested, so I missed those opportunities.
What else is there to say about Vinoteca? Great atmosphere and decor, good background music, and (for me at least) very good service. I only wish it was located on NCap.